For two weeks, she was our roving reporter at Wimbledon, keying in on the best matches, quietly going about her business, until tennis commentator Bud Collins couldn't bear the mystery any longer. "I've seen you here every day," Collins said to her. "Who are you?"
This is an article from the Sept. 17, 1984 issue
Let us introduce Bailey Breene, SI's consummate tennis reporter. Admittedly, her serve is atrocious and she'll tell you that the rest of her game is a B—, but when it comes to tennis facts and trivia, she's strictly an A player. "Three words can describe Bailey's work," says SI tennis editor Bill Colson: "She's always right."
For the last two weeks Breene cased the 25 courts at the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center, doing legwork for Curry Kirkpatrick's U.S. Open story that begins on page 14. At 25, Breene is no stranger to the national championship. The Open has been a family tradition for years, with Jim Breene piling his four kids into the car and heading off to Forest Hills from New Milford, Conn.
"I saw my first Open at 10," Bailey says. "We always bought general-admission tickets so we could spread out. I was the scrawniest kid, with knobby knees, and I had a terrible crush on Stan Smith." When she spotted Smith one day watching another match on an outside court, Breene worked up the nerve to ask him for his autograph. "All I got was a really dirty look and no signature," she says. It was the first and last autograph Breene ever solicited.
As for her own name, it's really Claire. Bailey is her middle name, a tribute to heart surgeon Charles P. Bailey. In March of 1957, Dr. Bailey appeared on the cover of TIME, and three months later he operated on Kathleen Breene's ailing heart. Less than two years later, Kathleen gave birth to her third child. Mother was fine, and baby was named in honor of the doctor.
Jim Breene taught Latin and Greek at the Canterbury School in New Milford; Bailey enrolled as a freshman soon after it turned coed. After Canterbury, she entered Connecticut College, where she studied French and art history. Her junior year was spent in Paris, and her French came in handy last summer when she had to track down Yannick Noah in Montreal (SI, Aug. 15, 1983). She had only three days to find him. By the third day, still no Noah, so Breene called his hotel room every 15 minutes all day until finally, "a melodious French voice said 'All√¥,' " she says. "I started speaking to him in French, but I got embarrassed and switched back."
Breene's first job at SI was as a clerk in our news bureau. "I came to the magazine for a summer job after college and never left," she says. She later worked in the articles department and became a reporter in December 1982.
Throughout Wimbledon, Breene collected choice samples of headlines from the British tabloids for our story, like BRAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT—about McEnroe. But the day before the finals, the chambermaid threw them out. Discouraged? Not Breene. She grabbed a garbage bag and headed for Fleet Street, where she bought up all the back copies she could find.